Those happy days of my boyhood, when my fishing equipment consisted of two simple outfits, seem remote indeed. I had several cane poles for river and lake fishing, which I had cut and cured myself, rigged up with the standard 1950s black nylon line, along with a hook, sinker (a homemade one from lead covering to roofing nails), and bobber. For fly-fishing in trout streams in the North Carolina mountains I called home, there was a simple South Bend fly rod made of Tonkin cane.
The cane pole outfits have long since come and gone, but even those were carefully stored in the winter in a location where they were “out of the weather.” On the other hand, I still own and cherish the 7 -foot fly rod, and both of its original tips are intact. Over time the guides have been replaced and the rod rewrapped, and it has a new reel seat. Nonetheless, at its heart, it is still the same slow action, forgiving (in terms of both casting motion and hook setting) rod it was when my father gave it to me precisely a half century ago. Even then, it was a “hand me down” he had fished with for years.
The message in this bit of personal history should be quite obvious. Care for your equipment wisely and in a proper fashion and it will serve you well for a long time. Even when it reaches the point of honorable retirement or when you absolutely have to have some high-tech replacement, it can be relegated to a prize place in your den or hobby room. In time, as anyone who has dabbled in the booming field of sporting collectibles will realize, it is likely to become a small treasure.
Time Well Spent
Maintaining your fishing equipment in a proper fashion really doesn’t require a great deal of time or effort. What is necessary, however, is persistence and doing the job when it needs to be done. At the end of a long day on the water, with a mess of fish to clean or miles to drive, the temptation to neglect basic maintenance duties can be mighty tempting. Yet if you make such chores a routine part of your fishing trips, they will soon become second nature.
As anyone who has read Robert Ruark’s timeless tales in The Old Man and the Boy realizes (and everyone should read and reread what I consider the greatest outdoor book ever written in this country), one of the most important lessons the Old Man taught the Boy was respect for one’s equipment. That respect verged on reverence, and the fact that the tales took place just prior to and during the throes of the Great Depression might have had something to do with it. Still, looking after gear was something the Old Man ranked right up there with sound sporting ethics, gun safety, and respecting the rights of others.
As for what you should do on a regular basis, here’s a list of a number of things to keep firmly in mind:
Check your line after every fish you catch and after every trip. Replace it on a regular basis depending on how often you fish and the elements it encounters. Monofilament is cheap when compared with the anguish of losing a big fish. If you fish a lot, you can save some money by buying one of the mega-spools with 1,000 or 2,000 yards of line.
Make a hook hone something you rely on just like you do a pocketknife. A fisherman who isn’t using a hook file to keep his hooks super sharp is missing a maintenance beat.
Store your lures properly between trips. Plastic worms, spinner skirts and the like fare poorly when left in a tackle box that resides in a hot vehicle from one trip to the next.
Anytime you fish in saltwater, and for that matter it isn’t a bad practice to do the same thing in freshwater situations, wash and rinse reels thoroughly after each outing, then give them some protective lubrication. Never forget that oil and grease are the keys to longevity for reels.
Keep your accessories in good order. Some fishermen care for their rods, reels, and lures quite well but neglect other things as varied as nets and nylon stringers, creels and minnow buckets.
Don’t forget the importance of what you wear. Leaking waders can mean pure misery or even a ruined trip, while neglecting to take along a warm jacket or a hat that protects you from the sun can result in real discomfort.
Every fisherman should have some basic first-aid items readily available. This includes not just band-aids and antibiotic ointment, but something for headache, stomachache, and certainly good sun screen.
Make it a point, on a regular basis, to do more than just routine maintenance. Ideally this should take place twice a year if you have a period (winter) when you don’t do any fishing. Take some special maintenance pains before storing equipment for several months, and do the same thing when you take it out. If the former is done right, the latter will normally involve nothing more than replacing some monofilament, checking to see whether you need any new items, and the like.
One mark of an efficient, capable angler is the way he looks after his equipment. Attend any national bass fishing tournament and watch the competitors who are at the top of their game. You’ll find them, at day’s end, checking everything out and making sure all their gear is organized and ready. Then, and only then, will they call it a day. You should have a similar approach when it comes to equipment maintenance.